Summary : On this exceptional voyage, explore the South Shetland Islands and the spectacular waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Enter the Weddell Sea, the ice-choked region made famous by the saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men from the Endurance Expedition nearly 100 years ago. Massive tabular icebergs, abundant wildlife, and fascinating history come to mind when contemplating the Weddell Sea. Aim to voyage as far south as Snow Hill Island, home to a known colony of emperor penguins, with the possibility of sighting these majestic birds. Journey north to the beautiful Falkland Islands and enjoy several days exploring the western archipelago discovering several additional penguin species and viewing nesting albatross. Experience the wonders of Antarctica in the quest for emperor penguin encounters.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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$999,999,999 to $0
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at the Chilean Antarctic base on King George Island, embark your ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, via zodiac. After settling in to your cabin and exploring your new surroundings, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, with everyone on board looking forward to the incredible adventure ahead.
Having flown directly into the South Shetland Islands, chart a southwesterly course along this dramatic island chain planning to visit a number of well established chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries as well as southern elephant seal haul-outs. Weather permitting, aim to visit Deception Island with its sizeable chinstrap penguin rookery at Baily Head. Here, inside the sunken volcanic caldera, is a perfect museum of natural and exploration history, with its old buildings and rusting remnants from the whaling era. For those wanting to stretch their legs, a spectacular hike to the crater rim offers a challenge. In the evening, cross the Bransfield Strait and approach the majestic White Continent for the first time.
Enter the steely blue waters of Antarctica’s Gerlache Strait. Protected by two large offshore islands, the waterways are home to deep bays, pristine coves and numerous small islands. The landscape features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops are home to gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. Savor several days of exploration here. Breaking into small groups of just 10-12 guests, enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and zodiac cruising among the ice. Planned visits could include Cierva Cove, Danco Island, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where you frequently encounter playful humpback whales.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, the Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As you sail into the sound, witness the vastness and majesty of the Antarctic icecap—it is an awe-inspiring sight. Heading into the Weddell Sea, notice a significant increase in the number of huge tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. These massive icebergs break from the huge ice shelves to the south and drift north on the currents. This always makes for exciting navigation.
This region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of staggering size. Maximize your time onshore as well as in zodiac boats, absorbing as much of the wilderness as possible. Weather permitting, excursions may include Paulet Island, Brown Bluff and even the southerly Snow Hill Island, where you observe Weddell and elephant seals, skuas and other seabirds as well as a staggering abundance of penguins.
Plan to set foot on the continent in this vicinity and, if the weather allows, some may choose to camp ashore overnight. Sailing among the islands of the Weddell Sea, you are in the realm of the emperor penguin, the largest of the penguins, and everyone will be on deck keeping a lookout. Juvenile emperors are sometimes sighted riding the ice floes.
The region features a rich history of exploration; you may visit Nordenskjöld’s winter hut on Snow Hill Island. It was built in 1902 and remains intact. The Shackleton story also features strongly and it was here that he and his men drifted north on the ice after their ship had been lost in the ice months earlier. Heading north out of the Weddell Sea and leaving Antarctica behind, the lavender pink sunset off the port quarter of the ship will make some pause to consider the bravery and/or foolhardiness of those early explorers who traveled these waters a hundred years before.
Approach Elephant Island from the south. Point Lookout, on the southern tip of the island, is home to an impressive macaroni penguin colony. Gentoo penguins are also known to nest here and there are often sizable numbers of Antarctic fur seals hauled out on the beaches. Shore landings at the fabled Point Wild on the north coast of Elephant Island, where Shackleton and his men were encamped under their upturned life boats, are notoriously tricky due to the surging ocean currents and pounding surf on the rocky beach. If conditions are right, you will attempt a landing. This is a thrilling location and a major highlight for history buffs.
While sailing across to the Falkland Islands, your onboard polar experts will recap on your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the day ahead. Days at sea are never dull, with much of your time spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular seabirds, including several albatross and petrel species, are your constant companions as they soar above the ship. Your onboard educational program continues and experts entertain with interactive presentations.
Arriving into the Falkland Islands overnight, explore the islands of West Point and Saunders, both in the West Falklands archipelago. West Point is known for its sizable rookeries of rockhopper penguins and nesting black browed albatross. While nearby Saunders Island with its white sand beaches features no less than four penguin species, including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, and your ultimate goal for the Falkland Island visit, the impressive king penguin.
In the early morning, navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise enjoy a night in this delightful city, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Sea Kayaking Option: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Enhanced Photography Program: No additional supplement
Select departures host an enhanced photography program, where in addition to the photographer in residence, a professional photographer will serve as one of the expedition guides. This expands the opportunities and bandwidth for those passengers looking to learn more and get more out of their images. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Hiking Excursions: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. Trekking poles are available onboard for passenger use and instep crampons will be provided if necessary to improve traction on slick surfaces. Sturdy hiking books and warm hiking socks are needed to join this activity. Hikes will be 2-3 hours in duration and will involve negotiating challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Antarctica hiking rewards with images of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers.
Camping Option: No additional supplement. (Possibly available on select departures. Contact ExpeditionTrips for details)
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear, such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
Photography: No additional supplement.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Accommodation aboard the ship; return flights Punta Arenas to King George Island / Port Stanley to Punta Arenas; all meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; all Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; foul weather gear set (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); use of multimedia station; welcome reception; welcome dinner; farewell dinner hosted by Captain; 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; pre-departure information; hairdryers available on request at no charge; group transfers from airport to ship in King George Island and from ship to airport in Port Stanley.
All airfare (except where explicitly stated above); visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals, transfers, and hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for optional programs.
PHOTOS: © Adam Riley; © C Lawton; © Ira Meyer; © Claudio Suter